ISBN: 978-0-691-21700-0

Eirin Haugseth


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How does democracy occur and why? In this book, Michael K Miller offers a revised theory of democratization, where power, context and disruption are emphasized as the main drivers. Contrary to previous theories arguing that pro-democracy protests directly affect or cause democratization, Miller suggests that the occurrence of a shock in the years prior to democratization explains why we have seen democratic transitions following coups but not in the wake of Tiananmen Square or in most countries affected by the Arab Spring. Through a careful examination of 139 democratic transitions from 1800–2014, Miller presents a comprehensive framework to explain what he identifies as two main paths to democratization: shocks and electoral continuity. A shock is described as a disruptive event that disturbs the status quo (such as coups, civil wars, assassinations, defeat in war or hegemonic withdrawal), while electoral continuity refers to opening up for elections without intending to democratize. After outlining the theoretical argument in Chapter 2, the first part of the book (Chapters 3–6) offers extensive descriptive, qualitative and contextual evidence to illustrate the paths. The second part of the book (Chapters 7–9) supports the case illustrations with quantitative analyses, evaluating how statistical models perform regarding the theoretical expectations and examining what holds for democratic survival and building durable democracies. To make a novel contribution in this already crowded research field is an impressive achievement. Through his ambitious coverage of the universe of cases and meticulous attention to each transition, Miller presents convincing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind democratic transitions.